After guiding Hearts of Oak to end their seven-year winless homerun against Ashantigold in a pulsating 2-1 win at the Accra Sports Stadium in a match week 21 Ghana Premier League (GPL) fixture on Sunday, Hearts Coach, Samuel Boadu has maintained that the title was still within their grasp; indicating that they were committed to fight until the final day of the season.
The reigning champions, who won their first GPL title after 12 years last season, have not exhibited the flamboyant form from last season that made them a toast of many and frontrunner to successfully defend their title.
Currently pegged sixth on the league standing with 32 points, a 12-point gulf separate them and leaders, Asante Kotoko. This has fuelled doubts raised about their ability to mount a strong challenge.
But with 13 matches left on the calendar and 39 points up for grabs, Boadu remained nonchalant about his side’s chances and said the attempt to crown Kotoko as league champions was far-fetched and an early call.
“What is the evidence that Kotoko has won the league? Boadu quizzed when asked about Kotoko’s runaway lead over his side at the post-match press conference.”
“At a point last season we were leading Kotoko by seven points but they didn’t relent and so that will be the same with us. We are fighting until the last game, it is only at that point that we will give up.”
In the highly-entertaining clash, Hearts set an early tone for victory in the 12th minute when Daniel Afriyie Barnieh calmly converted a spot-kick after Hearts forward, Isaac Mensah was adjudged to have been caught by Ashgold defender, Frank Akoto’s outstretched leg inside the box.
The visitors picked up momentum after earlier failing to match the home side’s intensity but cautiously kept a robust shape to keep Hearts incessant attacking threat in check.
Luckily for the visitors, the homeside appeared wasteful on numerous occasions.
Kojo Obeng Jnr, Salim Adams, Daniel Afriyie were the main culprits of these wastefulness. Inadvertently, Ashgold had a moment of magic that was produced by playmaker Yaw Annor after they had probed for a while.
A quick silver break from the visitors with Annor leading the charge was a delight to watch, as he skipped past three Hearts challengers before delivering an inch-perfect cross that was headed by Aminu Adams past Hearts goaltender, Richmond Ayi, who thought he had saved the situation only to realise the ball had already crossed the line before he pushed it out.
The leveler transformed the visitors in the second-half as they charged on the homeside, creating an avalanche of opportunities but also suffered from the wastefulness syndrome as Yaw Annor, Seth Osei, Mamudu Kamaradini and chief-culprit, Mark Agyekum, lacked the finishing finesse to utilize.
Early changes by Boadu in the second-half turned out as the trump card as Kofi Kordzi who replaced Isaac Mensah early in the second-half laid a perfect pass unto the path of Barnieh who struck spectacularly into the roof of the net to restore Hearts lead in the 61st minute and to claim a brace.
A late surge by Ashgold for the equalizer failed to yield results as again, Agyekum who was presented with two glorious chances fumbled with both.
Boadu, despite voicing his joy at coming out tops, was expressly concerned about his team’s poor conversion rate, adding that they were going to work on the confidence of the strikers.
Ashgold coach, Thomas Duah appeared displeased with the officiating, offering his misgivings about the penalty kick awarded to Hearts that resulted in their first goal.
According to him officiating must improve to help coaches measure accurately the performance of the team. He nonetheless, expressed optimism at steering the Obuasi-based club clear of relegation danger.
BY NANA BENTSI ODURO